Cross-strung harps were created in the late 1500s as a church instrument in Spain, but were virtually extinct by 1750 because of political and cultural upheaval. Cross-strung harps were re-invented as an orchestra instrument in the late 1800s in France, it met with harsh opposition from people who played other types of harps, and survived in only one Belgian conservatory. Today they have increased in popularity. The cross-strung harp belongs to the "multi-course harp" family, meaning it has more than one set of strings - in the case of the cross-strung harp, two sets. One set is attached to each side of the neck of the harp, and the rows of strings intersect between the neck and the soundbox like an X. The two sets of strings cross near the midpoint of each string, crossing so that either hand can play either note. In addition, one set of strings contains the natural notes - the white keys on a piano. The other set of strings passes between these and consists of sharps - the black notes on a piano.
The cross-strung harp is tuned so the right hand reaches "up" for the naturals and "down" for the flats, and the left hand does the opposite. The advantage is that all of the notes are available to the fingers at all times. The disadvantage is that the space required for an octave is much wider, because additional room is needed for five additional strings to vibrate within that octave. This means you have to stretch your hand much wider to reach an octave. It also means that a cross-strung harp either has a small note range or is very large. To see our other types of harps, view our Main Harps Page.
SPECIAL NOTE - No Warranty on Strings: Whether you purchase an instrument on-line or in a neighborhood store, manufacturers recommend that you change the strings on your instrument as soon as you receive it. Your instrument has completed a long journey to your home. During this time the strings WILL oxidize and this may shorten their life expectancy and may reduce their sound quality. On occasion instruments may arrive with a broken string, therefore, it is recommended that you purchase a replacement set of strings and consider changing your strings as soon as it arrives. Learning to change strings should be the first lesson learned when embarking on the journey of playing a new instrument.